Heat B-team Snags Home Court, Tops Wizards 103-98
WASHINGTON — Ray Allen scored 23 points, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade chilled at the end of the bench, and the Miami Heat’s B-squad gave the resting A-team the gift of home-court advantage throughout the playoffs Wednesday night, clinching the best record in the NBA with a 103-98 victory over the Washington Wizards.
With James (right hamstring) and Wade (sprained ankle and bruised knee) looking like two guys sitting at a bus stop, and Chris Bosh at home with flu-like symptoms, plus Udonis Haslem getting the night off because of a sore right ankle, the what-was-left-over of the Heat committed 25 turnovers but still managed the win that assured they’ll finish better than the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat, who have won four straight, also set a franchise record for victories with 62, moving one ahead of the 1996-97 team. They also improved to 14-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.
A.J. Price tied a career high with 23 points and John Wall had 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards, who had won nine straight at home.
James played in Tuesday night’s 94-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Heat are playing it safe with the reigning league MVP.
“Not a setback,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Want to make sure he feels right. He was a little bit tight yesterday after the game. That was probably to be expected. It was the same amount of tightness he had after Saturday night’s game, but we had two days off in between, so he was able to manage that.”
Wade missed his sixth consecutive game. While he and James at least made the trip to Washington, Bosh stayed home and missed a third straight game because of flu-like symptoms.
Haslem sat out after recording his first double-double of the season in Tuesday’s game. He said the ankle has been bothering him for a while, and he felt a pain when he planted while chasing a rebound. He doesn’t expect to be sidelined for long.
“I don’t want it to be a situation where I go into the playoffs with something nagging,” Haslem said. “We just want to have all cylinders firing and everybody as healthy as possible.”
The absence of the big names gave the game a low-key, exhibition feel. The Heat committed 11 turnovers in the first quarter, yet still had a three-point lead. Miami made 17 3-pointers in the game, compared to 16 2-pointers.
Rashard Lewis scored 17 points, Shane Battier had 15, Mike Miller added 14 and Mario Chalmers finished with 13 for the Heat.
The Wizards turned out to be an even match for the Miami backup wave. Neither team led by double digits until the Heat went ahead 98-88 with 2:53 remaining.
James Jones and Lewis hit 3-pointers in a 12-0 run that gave the Heat an 83-74 lead early in the fourth quarter. Wall soon returned to the game and helped get the Wizards within one, but a three-point play and a 3-pointer by Allen restored Miami’s modest cushion.
Wall, who has led the Wizards’ recent resurgence, had the highlight play in the first half, catching a low alley-oop pass from Martell Webster, reversing under the basket and flinging the ball up and in while crashing to the floor.
While the Heat are gearing up for the playoffs, lottery-bound Washington has a goal of finishing ninth — a pursuit that’s been ridiculed but seemed unlikely when it was 4-28.
“What do you want to aim for?” coach Randy Wittman said before the game. “Eighty wins, when you’re 4-28? … We were at the very bottom at 4-28 — there was 29 teams ahead of us, all right? Let’s see how many we can pass.”
Notes: Webster left in the third quarter with an abdominal strain. … Washington Trevor Ariza missed his second straight game with a sore left knee. … Wall not only carried the Wizards, he also carried the ball. He was whistled twice for traveling in the first half.
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